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Solace: Writing, Refuge, and LGBTQ Women of Color is published by Black Feminist Press (BLF), “an author-centered independent, Black feminist press dedicated to amplifying the work of women of color.” In Solace, a collection of prose, quotes, photographs, and poetry edited by S. Andrea Allen and Lauren Cherelle, BLF does just that—it amplifies and illuminates ruminations centered around finding comfort and resistance, especially in sadness and alienation.
The book is sprinkled with small vignettes of photography, further encouraging the intent of the publication—as a place for reflection, recovery, and community. Some of the photography is waterfalls, mountaintops, or just a “welcome” sign.
Each written piece stands as both a political outcry and a longstanding hug. As Audre Lorde wrote, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgent, it is self- preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” In “Push Back and Breathe,” M. Shelly Conner echoes and elaborates on her ideas: “I, struggle with the notion of how much to display and share with my community. It is largely informed by how lost I felt when I first searched for black queer sisterhood—sometimes invisible (quite possibly by design) to those outside of it.”
The book has one dedication: “For Sakia,” whose name and murder conjures all the other names of LGBTQ women of color who have been murdered, beaten, and overlooked. Their memory, and their treatment by the world, are at the roots of the text: the media coverage, the pursuit of justice, and their rightful place in the historical context of our world’s current ideologies and fears.
Solace explores the journey of finding oneself in literature, representation, painful histories, and in one another. An example of this can be identified in Almah Lavon Rice’s prose piece, “Remedios,” in which she builds a figurative alter (so to speak) to the pure sense of belonging the world of reading paints for her life:
When my mother would send me out to play with neighborhood kids, I would slip a book in the waistband of my shorts and find a place out of maternal eyeshot to read in secret. So I strapped a book’s spine to my own and grew taller, stronger. Yes, words held me up and still do. Or, I can re-myth the scoliosis I was diagnosed with as a child as an attempt to curve around words, language my trellis. Curve, twine, tangle; people are too cruel, too remote, too inconsistent, but within the pages of a book I can finally taste the constancy and intimacy I crave.
In “We Know,” librecht baker reinforces resistance by highlighting the history and essence of “we,” each line building another layer onto the concept of what “we” have overcome, what we come from, and how we continue to survive. One could argue this poem is inspired by the ever-popular communal “we” in Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem, “We Real Cool.” baker writes:
we kick belief in as if it were dissipating dust,
forgetting we is real
within us is medicine needing tutelage so fear,
fight, and flight aren’t first responses
within we is lineage, an internal elder currenting
tapestry in our speak
we speak these blueprints as reverence for now as
though it was before, before
supplying our matter with matter like we matter as
The book is filled with strong prose, thought-provoking poetry, carefully-selected quotes, and soothing images. And it’s a part of a larger queer, overlooked literary canon of artists reflecting on how “we” survive, make love, build relationships, and continue to create art that speaks to those before us, after us, and those who are here now, and still need to be reminded just how powerful we can be.
Solace: Writing, Refuge, and LGBTQ Women of Color
Edited by S. Andrea Allen and Lauren Cherelle
Black Feminist Press
Paperback, 9780997243963, 162 pp.